To prove their worth to Americans, electric vehicles must do more they move about silently without pollution. They’ve got to be able to race. And this weekend EV’s set new records at the Pikes Peak “Race to the Clouds.”
Where once racing was dominated by big, gas-guzzling engines, racers and manufacturers the world over are starting to see the performance potential in electric vehicles. Among this years electrified entrants in the annual Race to the Clouds were a slightly-modified Nissan Leaf, Chip Yates and his 240 horsepower electric motorcycle, and Ikuo Hanawa, who returned for the third time in as many years in the new Yokohama EV Challenge Racer.
The Nissan Leaf, driven by veteran Nissan off-road truck racer Chad Hord, set the record for the fastest production electric vehicle, climbing the 12.4 mile course in 14 minutes and and 33 seconds. This Leaf features the same powertrain as the production leaf, as well as the NISMO RC racer version. Other than replacing the low-rolling resistence tires for something more sticky, adding a rollcage, and ditching some interior parts, this was pretty much a stock Leaf managing a very respectable time. While it was fast enough to beat out some of the gas-powered competition, it was still far from breaking any standing records. That job was left to Chip Yates and Ikuo Hanawa.
Yates one-off 240 horsepower electric motorcycle is the most powerful motorcycle to ever attempt Pikes Peak. Yates banished the existing EV motorcycle record by over four minutes, and finished second overall in the Exhibition Powersport class with a time of 12 minutes and 50 seconds. That is more than respectable; it is downright impressive.
And then there is Ikuo Hanawa, who is rocking the custom-built 268 horsepower/258 ft-lb torque Yokohama EV Challenge Racer. Hanawa held the previous electric vehicle record pace of 13 minutes and 13 seconds, and he was back to beat that record. At the end of the day, he shaved almost a minute off last years time, coming in at 12 minutes and 20 seconds, an improvement attributed to the new 11″ AC Propulsion electric motors. After the two miles of dirt road are paved over next year, the times for all these vehicles is only expected to drop more.
Fast. Fun. Record breaking. That is the image electric vehicles need now, more than the whole save-the-Earth message. We get it. EV’s are clean. People who know and like that don’t need convincing. It’s the guys with the race cars and big trucks that need to see what else EV’s are capable of. And as this trio of fast electric vehicles proved this weekend, they are capable of quite a bit.
Images: Yokohama | Nissan
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.